Why Therapy Is More Than Just Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Updated: Sep 14
Are you considering getting therapeutic mental health treatment?
If so, you should know about the different forms of treatment available to you. Nowadays, many therapists practice a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). As such, it's also the form of treatment that is most familiar to clients. Many clients may even assume that when they get therapy, they're going through CBT.
Yet, CBT isn't the only type of therapy available. Depending on the kind of client you are, it might not even be the most effective for you.
Below, we'll get into a few of the many types of mental health treatment available to you. By reading this guide, you'll learn more about the different theories and how they might serve you. Keep reading to find the best type of treatment for your needs!
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy came about in the late 1900s. It is the result of the work of a few prominent theorists. B.F. Skinner expanded on the work of Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov established that animals exhibit certain behaviours in response to stimuli. Skinner furthered behaviourist research by studying how behaviours get established or eliminated. He found this happens via rewards, known as reinforcements.
Counselling professionals progressed this research. Many behaviourists came to believe that behaviours reinforce emotions. So, they started guiding clients through changing their behaviours. This then changed the emotional response.
Ellis and Beck
In the 1950s, counsellor Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). Ellis asserted that negative emotions stemmed from 'irrational' feelings and thoughts.
About a decade later, counsellor Aaron T. Beck noticed 'faulty cognitions.' He argued that you could treat a client by helping them identify their unhealthy thoughts. This became the core of Cognitive Therapy.
What Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
Many therapists started realizing that behavioural therapy and Cognitive Therapy often worked best when combined. As such, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was born.
CBT focuses on both treating behaviours and faulty cognitions
When you meet with a CBT therapist, they will sit down with you and ask you some questions about yourself. They will help you restructure your negative thinking patterns. They may ask you questions intended to broaden your thinking or get you to see your situation in a new light.
Your therapist may also ask you to journal your thoughts. This will make you more aware of how your cognitions affect your everyday life. You might even notice yourself catching your negative thought patterns in your journals!
You might also take part in catastrophic thinking. You will predict what will happen when you do something anxiety-inducing. Then, you'll do it. Your therapist will help you review what actually happened. This shows people that their fears often don't come to fruition.
Your therapist will give you techniques to cope no matter what happens.
To treat your behaviours, your therapist might put you through exposure therapy. When this happens, you'll get exposed to your phobias in a safe environment. Your fears may get introduced in an incremental fashion so that you build up a tolerance for them.
You should expect to experience some emotional discomfort during this time. This treatment is voluntary, though, and you can stop it at any time.
Your therapist won't put you in physical danger when you go through exposure therapy. All exposures will happen either in a controlled environment or in everyday scenarios.
Before exposure therapy, your therapist will go over coping techniques with you. This could include breathing techniques to counteract anxiety. You might also get taught how to relax your muscles or picture imagery. You can use these methods in your everyday life, too.
What Does CBT Treat?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is one of the most studied and evidence-backed approaches. It treats a wide array of mental health issues. These include depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, marital problems, and eating disorders.
If you're going to a therapist for a specific issue, you should make sure they specialize in that issue. Almost all therapists have a specialty even if they practise CBT.
Alternative Forms of Therapy
All psychotherapists study CBT in school and can apply it when appropriate. Yet, research has expanded, and life has changed.
This has prompted therapists to use new theories in their practices. You might find some of these theories more helpful to you than CBT.
Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT)
Emotion-Focused Therapy emerged in the 1980s. At the time, research was coming out about the importance of emotional attachments. The connections we make with other people can elicit certain emotions within us. EFT seeks to address those emotions.
The EFT approach is humanistic and experiential in nature. It tries to restructure interactions with key people in your life. It also builds up your sense of self and works on you as an individual.
Because of the relationship focus, EFT gets used to treat couples. Yet, individuals can also reap benefits from EFT. This is especially true if their problems are relational in nature.
Drs. Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg founded Solution Focused Therapy. It is a brief form of therapy, usually consisting of 5 sessions or less.
Solution-Focused Therapy places an emphasis on finding solutions to problems. It is often used in family therapy, but it also gets used with individuals.
In the first meeting with a solution-focused therapist, the therapist will help the clients identify goals. They may ask clients the Miracle Question, which is often phrased like this: "If a miracle were to occur in the night while you were sleeping, what would be the first sign that something had changed when you woke up? What would you notice?"
This shifts the focus away from the problem. Instead, it asks clients to identify what they think the solution looks like. This helps the therapist get into the mindset of each client. From there, they can help the clients set goals. The counsellor will work with them to achieve those goals.
Narrative Therapy focuses on the stories we tell ourselves. Therapists help clients assemble their narratives and explore different life events through these stories.
This gives clients a stronger perception of themselves and the situations they've been in. It also helps them to externalize their life stories. As such, they get enough emotional distance from life events to examine them.
Therapists also help clients deconstruct unhelpful narratives. They then work together to rebuild more helpful ones.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is a newer form of therapy. It is very effective at helping clients process traumatic events.
During an EMDR session, the client recounts a difficult event while focusing on the therapist's hand. The therapist then moves their hand across the client's field of vision. This causes the client to have new insights about the event. They might process it in a different way than they did before.
EMDR is still being researched. Experts believe its effectiveness comes from the fact that we look in different directions when we use different parts of the brain. So, a client may have different realizations because different parts of the brain get activated.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) operates on the assumption that suppressing emotions is unproductive and harmful. ACT therapists believe working through emotions leads to less distress than avoiding does.
So, ACT helps clients become mindful of their personal situations and values. The therapist helps the client navigate what they've been avoiding. They then commit to actions that will help them work through these situations.
Trauma-Informed Therapy is used to help clients who have undergone traumatic events. Each trauma-informed therapist has extensive knowledge of how trauma affects people.
They perform their work with sensitivity to the trauma the person has experienced. A good therapist will provide a safe space for the client. They'll establish a trustworthy rapport with the client and provide peer support. The client and the therapist will work together on the healing journey.
All Therapists Should Practice Culturally Competent Therapy
A good therapist has training in working with people from many backgrounds. Culturally competent therapy is now considered a necessary part of therapeutic training.
Therapists are also encouraged to practice culturally humble therapy. This helps them prioritize the cultures and values of their clients.
Want to Get Help?
Your mental health impacts all areas of your life. If you don't keep yourself healthy, your mental health might interfere with your everyday activities. It might also make you feel hopeless or afraid.
If you're ready to get help, let us know. Our team of professionals provides a variety of therapy options to people like you. This includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. We also believe therapy should be accessible to everyone, so we offer online and in-person options.
Our 15-minute phone or video consultations are free and come without obligations!
Book a consultation today!
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